A bill spearheaded by Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) that would prevent the European Union (E.U.) from adding a unilateral tax on flights traveling through U.S. and international airspace was signed into law by the president today. Similar legislation (H.R.2594) introduced in the House by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) passed by voice vote in October of 2011. The Senate Commerce Committee passed Thune’s bipartisan legislation by voice vote on July 31, 2012, and the full Senate passed the legislation by unanimous consent on September 22, 2012. Thune’s bill was then sent to the House where it passed by voice vote on November 13, 2012.
Thune, who is the ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee’s Aviation Operations, Safety and Security Subcommittee, introduced the European Union Emission Trading Scheme Prohibition Act (S. 1956) to protect U.S. air carriers and passengers from the potential for an unprecedented tax levied on them in American and international airspace by the E.U. Currently, all international flights operating to and from the E.U., including flights into and out of U.S. airspace, are included in the E.U. Emissions Trading System (ETS). Under ETS, U.S. air carriers are now subject to pay an emissions tax to the E.U. Thune’s legislation would provide the Secretary of Transportation with the authority to ensure that U.S. aircraft operators are not penalized or harmed by the E.U.’s unilateral emissions scheme.
On Monday, November 12, 2012, Connie Hedegaard, the European Commissioner for Climate Action, announced that the E.U. intended to postpone collecting ETS taxes on international flights into and out of Europe until after the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) General Assembly next autumn.
“American sovereignty will no longer be threatened by the E.U.’s illegitimate and disingenuous ‘environmental’ tax on our country,” said Thune. “I am pleased that we were able to reach a bipartisan compromise in order to advance this common-sense piece of legislation. My bill will ensure that we protect U.S. air carriers and passengers from this illegal tax, freeing up billions of dollars that can instead be invested in creating jobs, modernizing or purchasing new aircraft and stimulating our own economy. I will continue to monitor the negotiations with ICAO as we work together to reach an acceptable agreement that protects American sovereignty and U.S. air carriers and passengers.”
Both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood have sent letters to the E.U. that express their continued opposition to the application of the E.U. ETS to foreign air carriers. Thune’s bill is supported by numerous airline stakeholders, including Airlines for America, Air Line Pilots Association, American Society of Travel Agents, Cargo Airline Association, General Aviation Manufacturers Association, International Air Transport Association, Interactive Travel Services Association, National Air Carrier Association, Regional Airline Association, U.S. Travel Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, and United Airlines.